Summer on the Slopes
Whether you want to relax by the pool or explore the great outdoors, ski towns offer fun, affordable vacations when the snow melts. Here, topnotch destinations with kid-friendly programs.
Park City, Utah
Sad the Winter Olympics are over? Even in June, you and your kids can try some of your favorite events in Park City, which hosted the 2002 Games. Visit the ski museum at Olympic Park, and get tickets for one of the freestyle shows, where Olympic hopefuls demonstrate their acrobatic ski and snowboard jumps, landing in a 750,000-gallon splash pool. If you have nerves of steel, you can speed down the mountain at 70 mph in a bobsled with a professional driver. Kids under 14 -- and less daring family members -- can take a tamer trip down an alpine slide (the summer version of the bobsled). The area actually has three great family-friendly resorts -- Deer Valley, The Canyons, and Park City Mountain -- that offer something for everyone in your family: spa treatments for Mom, golf for Dad, and swimming for the kids, to name a few.
If you have a future gold medalist in your family, sign him up for the Olympic Park's four-day Adventure Camp (ages 8 to 14; $395). Kids can try out sports such as luge and speed skating with the help of experienced coaches. For younger kids and those who aren't into winter sports, Deer Valley Resort's Summer Adventure Camp (ages 1 to 12; $54 per day) has a good mix of crafts, games, treasure hunts, and field trips.
Stay in a one-bedroom condo at Deer Valley Resort for $104 per night (two-night minimum), which includes vouchers for a scenic ride on the Silver Lake Express chairlift. Visit deervalley.com or call 800-558-3337.
Contact information: 800-453-1360 or parkcityinfo.com
Smugglers' Notch, Vermont
This popular resort is a good choice if you like meeting other families on vacation -- it organizes get-togethers throughout the week, ranging from potluck picnics to bonfires to karaoke parties. Smuggs (as the locals call it) is known for its unique -- and slightly wacky -- brand of family entertainment: In the "Bigger Is Better: Lifesize Games," you and your kids can play giant tic-tac-toe, for example, or your team can use duct tape, balloons, paints, and cardboard to build your own cart and see if you can launch it off a ramp in the Big Air Dummy Derby. Tennis and golf are also hits here, along with hiking and other sports. But if you like to swim, the highlight will probably be the resort's four water parks, complete with eight pools and four wild slides. On Thursday evenings, stop by the old-fashioned Vermont Country Fair on Smuggs's village green for great food, live music, handmade crafts, and free games.
No matter what your kid's interests are, it's a safe bet that he'll find something he likes (overnight campouts, theater classes, swimming) at the Summer Fun University Program (ages 3 and up; included with the package). There are also six playgrounds, two teen centers, and a childcare facility called Treasures (ages 6 weeks to 3 years).
The FamilyFest package starts at $1,020 for a family of four and includes lodging for four nights, most activities, and childcare. Rates are lowest in early June and peak in August.
Contact information: 800-451-8752 or smuggs.com
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
This Western hot spot is a big draw for families, thanks to its prime location near two of the country's most gorgeous national parks. Nightly "shoot-outs" staged in the town square and twice-weekly rodeos give Jackson a thrilling Wild West feel. There's so much to do here -- from a rafting trip down the Snake River to a dinner-theater show at the historic Jackson Hole Playhouse -- that you probably won't be able to squeeze it all in. But make sure that you go biking, fishing, hiking, or horseback riding in Grand Teton National Park for some unforgettable views. And save time for a drive to Yellowstone National Park, where your kids can spot geysers, bubbling mud pots, and buffalo herds up close. You'll find plenty of lodging options in different price ranges, but for a truly unique stay, spend a night in the Rock Springs Yurt. This round tent with eight bunk beds is located high up in the Tetons -- you can only get there on a guided hike.
Your little cowpoke will learn about local history and nature at The Kids' Ranch (ages 3 and up; $80) at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The programs include a hike from the aerial tram, swimming, science projects, and special events. Make plans to check out the downtown nightlife while your children hit the pizza party and play games at Kids' Night Out.
The Great Family Outdoors Package at the Teton Mountain Lodge starts at $619 per person for a family of four and includes a four-night stay, a scenic float trip in Grand Teton National Park, a seven-day park pass for your vehicle, and a half-day horseback ride. Visit mountaindestination.com, or call 800-801-6615 and ask for promo code FAM06.
Contact information: 888-333-7766 or jacksonhole.com
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
The largest ski resort in the state, Bretton Woods is home to the awesome Mount Washington Hotel, a National Historic Landmark built in 1902. But the area also offers lots of fun things to do in the summer: Tennis, golf, and horseback riding have been the most popular activities at the resort since it opened. Kids have to be at least 10 to take trail rides on horses, but there are also pony rides for little ones. Say yes to a tour of the hotel's elaborate architecture -- a must-see even for children. And don't miss the narrated ride to the top of the mountain on the restored Mount Washington Cog Railway, which was built in 1869. The train makes the scenic trip up and back in about three hours. Need some alone time? Enroll your kids in the evening program, and take a romantic carriage ride, followed by dinner for two.
The hotel's Kids' Camp (ages 4 to 12; included with your stay) has all the traditional summer activities -- hiking, crafts, movies, and games -- but there's also a special surprise event each session, such as tennis with a resort pro or cooking with the chef.
With the Mount Washington Hotel's Family Vacation Package, kids 12 and under stay and eat free Sunday through Thursday. Rooms with two queen beds start at $175 per person, per night; the rate includes a four-course dinner and full breakfast daily.
Contact information: 877-873-0626 or brettonwoods.com
There's plenty to keep active families busy in Telluride. Hiking, biking, fly-fishing, horseback riding, and rafting are a few of the favorites. If you're looking for something a bit more laid-back, you can find a festival (hot-air balloon, music, film) every weekend, and most have a children's activity tent. Take time to check out the boutiques and amazing views from Main Street -- the perfect place to snap a family photo, with the mountains as a backdrop. Stay in the historic mining town or sleep slopeside in the modern, European-style Mountain Village and commute between the two on a free gondola ride. Before you leave, your family can try to strike it rich on a gold-panning expedition (you can keep what you find!). The Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour includes live demonstrations and a ride on an electric mine train into Galena Mountain.
The Telluride Kids' Camp (ages 5 to 12; $70 per day) at the Children's Ski & Snowboard School in Mountain Village offers arts and crafts, nature walks, swimming, and more. You can also drop off babies as young as 12 weeks at the Peaks Resort & Golden Door Spa's nursery (starts at $15 per hour) or sign up preschoolers for its Pioneer Camp (starts at $70 per day).
You get a free day at Telluride Kids' Camp with every stay (three nights or more) at the Mountain Lodge at Telluride. Rates start at $339 a night for four people in a posh two-bedroom condo (compared with $579 per night during peak ski season). Visit mountainlodgetelluride.com, or call 866-368-6867 and request promo code JR.
Contact information: 888-355-8743 or visittelluride.com
Children's Mountain Programs
Here are five other resorts that have great children's programs in the summer.
Beaver Creek Resort, Colorado
(888-830-7669 or beavercreek.com)
Drama queens- and kings-in-training get to strut their stuff at the four-day Children's Theatre Company workshops (ages 5 to 12). If your child is more outdoorsy, sign him up for the Kids' Day Camp (ages 5 to 12), which includes pony rides, panning-for-gold expeditions, and a ropes course.
Resort at Squaw Creek, California
(800-327-3353 or squawcreek.com)
This Lake Tahoe retreat offers lots of cool ways to explore the area with your family, from hot-air balloon rides to sailing trips to Jeep tours. The Mountain Buddies program is also a kid-pleaser, with easy nature-trail hikes and wild trips down the 120-foot water slide.
(800-232-9542 or snowbird.com)
At Camp Snowbird (ages 3 to 12), your child can take part in sports, science projects, hikes with picnic lunches, and arts and crafts. But his favorite activity will be a toss-up between
riding down the alpine slide or the 1,000-foot-long zip line.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
(877-237-2628 or steamboat.com)
If you can drag your child away from the bungee-jump trampoline, she'll get to try her hand at mountain biking, kayaking, the climbing wall, and other fun outings at the Kids'
Adventure Club (ages 3 to 12).
Wintergreen Resort, Virginia
(800-926-3723 or wintergreenresort.com)
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the resort offers plenty of things that you can enjoy together as a family, from big campfires with storytelling to fun hayrides. But you can also sign your children up for the full- and half-day Kids in Action programs (ages 2 to 12).
If your family is new to mountain vacations, follow these simple tips for a happy, healthy trip.
Give the kids -- and yourself -- at least a day to acclimate to the altitude before you jump into organized activities.
Drink plenty of water to help ward off altitude sickness. Some symptoms to look out for are: headaches, light-headedness, weakness, upset stomach, and trouble sleeping. Call your doctor if you think your child might be ill.
Make sure you take extra water on hikes, and don't drink from streams or rivers. Even crystal-clear mountain water can carry giardia, a nasty intestinal parasite.
Take a front or back carrier for babies and toddlers. Mountain trails and some historic towns are not always stroller-friendly.
Pack clothes that kids can get grubby in -- not just their "vacation best" -- and include some warmer gear, since mountain weather can be unpredictable.
Remember to bring sunscreen -- the thin atmosphere makes it easy to get burned at high elevations.